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The importance of the family dinner table

We live in a busy world. As a parent you’re managing work, juggling kids, orchestrating a packed schedule of pick ups and drop offs and working through an endless list of household chores that never seems to get any shorter.

Despite the amount of xbox your child may play, they feel busy too. They have all these pressures that make them feel pressed on all sides; schoolwork, social expectations, questions about their future. It might not always seem like it as you weave around their legs as they sit on the couch while you try to vacuum, but they feel the pressure too.

That is why I love the family dinner table.

In this instant world where we look to get things done as quickly as possible, the family dinner table is quiet in the noise. It is a breath of fresh air in the chaos of the week. It is a time to come together as family, turn the TV off, put our phones aside and enjoy that time together.

It is an opportunity for you to get more than just grunts from your teenagers behind their phones. It gives you a window to find out what your primary schooler learnt at school. It is an opportunity for you to teach them valuable life skills in that 30 minutes that they focus on what you say.

Eating together as a family doesn’t have to happen every night. But it should be a priority in your week. Once, twice, thrice – whatever you as a family can manage. Lock it in and make sure everyone is there.

Here are 5 reasons why the family dinner table should be a priority in our homes:

1. Eating together provides a time that kids can count on spending with their parents.

That consistent family dinner time is something that your children can look forward to because they know they will get your undivided attention.

2. It improves kids’ thinking and linguistic development.

Rather than staring at their phones or watching TV, they are engaging in sustained conversations about interesting topics. It challenges them to think, communicate and respond.

3. More family meals lead to greater relationships.

Not only amongst family members, but outside of this also. It teaches children to slow down and take time to communicate, teaching them valuable life skills that they can apply in their interactions with others.

4. It gives you a window in to your child’s world.

It can be very hard to notice changes in your child if you only spend quality time with them once a month. Having regular meals together will allow you to see if there are any issues or challenges confronting them and give you an opportunity to monitor their development.

5. Family meals are healthier for everyone.

When you are busy it can be so easy to just grab the easiest meal possible – often something that is not good for your body. By setting aside this time, you will be eating a meal that has taken time to prepare and will be much better for you in the long run.

These are just five simple reasons, but I am sure you can think of dozens more. I challenge you to prioritise the family dinner table and make it a key part of your week – your children will thrive and you will get a chance to take a break from the madness of life.


 

Don’t lose your voice!

I’ve been so inspired by the March for our lives movement in America. Obviously it takes place in a land far away, surrounding an issue that we (fortunately) don’t have to deal with here in Australia, but I am so inspired seeing young people take the initiative where adults would not.

I am not trying to make a political statement here, this isn’t about that at all. So often I see students think that they don’t matter and that their voice doesn’t deserve to be heard. They get lumped in with millenials; entitled, lazy and too optimistic. But in my experience working with young people, this isn’t accurate.

Most student know they want to make a change, want to improve the world – they just don’t know how. They feel powerless amongst a population of adults that dismiss them too easily. So this powerless can come across as lazy. They are optimists, and believe that they have something unique to offer the world which can be taken as entitlement.

Most young people I know are hard working, humble and willing to get their hands dirty. Sometimes they just need an effort to throw their energy at.

Students, don’t lose your voice. Don’t let the world beat it out of you. If there is a wrong in the world, find a way to make it right. A 20m tree starts out with just a seed – and you can be that seed in the world.

Every great idea, every great change in the world started with one person. Even when it seems like no one is paying attention to you, don’t lose your voice.

 

3 ways to stop your kids being bored

This title might be deceiving. I don’t mean 3 ways to entertain your kids so they aren’t bored. I am talking about building the muscle and resilience within them so they don’t turn to complaining about being bored the minute the iPad or TV is turned off.

Here are 3 ways you can help make this happen.

1. It is a very different world for a young person to when we were young. They live in the instant world. I remember as a kid having to sit through TV shows I hated to get to the ones I liked – but in 2018 this doesn’t happen anymore. They can watch whatever they want, when they want it on Netflix or Youtube. When my daughter asks for a snack in the car and we tell her to wait until we get home, she carries on endlessly until we give in out of frustration. She gives a new app on the iPad about 4 seconds to load before getting tired of waiting and opening another.

These simple moments of instant gratification may be causing more harm than we can see.

The ability to delay gratification is a huge indicator of success later in life. Health, wealth & fulfilment – these are all dependent on the ability to delay the enjoyment until a later time. Don’t eat that cookie right now. Don’t sit down in front of the TV but go for a run first. Don’t buy that top on your credit card, but save up for a few weeks. Work hard now so you can afford to go on that holiday next year.

Allowing our children to get everything they want instantly affects this development. It hinders their ability to handle stress. The reality is that the real world; the working world of offices and work sites aren’t like this. People don’t get what they want, when they want it all the time. If someone wants a pay rise, they don’t just get it, then need to put in the work and prove their worth far before they ever bring it up.

Try to teach your children to wait. To take a breath or do something else first. This will reap dividends in their psychological development and reduce the desire to get what they want as soon as they want it.

2. We have created these worlds where young people must be in a constant state of fun.

Video games, youtube, texting friends, playing at the playground. The moment our children aren’t doing something, we feel something is wrong so find something else to fill the void with. There is rarely time for them to just sit and be quiet. Or perhaps further, do something they don’t want to do – like help out around the house or in the kitchen.

Basic monotonous work is actually good for us. It builds resilience. It is the same muscle in our brains that makes us teachable at school.

When we flood our children’s lives with fun activities (because seeing our kids having fun makes us feel like good parents) we fail to exercise this muscle. When our children confront a problem at school they say things like ‘It’s too hard’ or ‘I can’t do it’, because the workable ‘muscle’ doesn’t get trained through fun – it gets trained through work.

3. Technology rules the world for anyone under the age of 18. If you want to see a teenager at their worst, take their phone away for an hour and watch all hell break loose. Compared to what happens on a screen, real life is ‘boring’. It is hard to compete with what they see on youtube or TV, and this changes their perspective of what is normal.

When you go to the gym for a long period of time you develop what is called muscle memory. This makes it harder and harder to tear the muscle and grow because your body adapts and gets used to the high level of strain. This is the same with the brain. When a child plays video games for 4 hours, their brain gets so used to high levels of stimulation that anything less than that can be seen as boring.

I don’t have a suggestion for how much screen time is right – nor do I have any specific rules for my own kids. But it is important to understand that when we default to technology as a babysitter it may be causing more harm then good.


Being bored is a complaint my 4 year old daughter pulls out regularly. It isn’t something we have taught her, so she must have picked it up at preschool. When she does it, we stop her and tell her that nothing is inherently boring and that she needs to find a way to make them interesting, whether this be cleaning up her room or eating her dinner.

I hope you can find a way to beat the boredom and ultimately set them up for success in school and beyond.

How to set smart goals

I love a new year. It is like starting the first page of a brand new book waiting to be written; the story ready to go wherever you choose to take it.

Every year I spend some time in the lead up to the new year writing down my goals for the year ahead. It is something I have done since I was in school and it has always helped shape my priorities and direct my focus.

I am a firm believer in the power of goals and encourage everyone I work with to have their own goals they work towards. With goals you will be more motivated, focussed and experience a much greater sense of purpose and meaning.

I try to break my goals down in to 4 categories:

  • Business/Career
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Personal

I also try to limit my goals in each category to three; any more than that and they become too vague.

Goals need to be actionable – this exercise is different to a dream board. In a seperate place I keep my big picture stuff – what I want to be doing in 10/20 years – but this is all about the year ahead, and creating goals that I can work towards and tick off at the end of the year.

They say that goals need to be S.M.A.R.T:

Specific: Your goals need to be clear and specific – they can’t be vague. For example, ‘getting a good ATAR’ is not specific enough – instead, break it down; you want a 85 average in English and an 80 in maths.

Measurable: Having a measurable goal allows you to track progress and stay motivated. For example, saying ‘I want to lose weight’ isn’t really measurable – but saying I want to lose 10kgs is.

Achievable: As I said above, this is about the year ahead – so having ‘become a millionaire’ is probably not achievable within the time period (unless you are sitting on a ton of money already…). Your goals need to take all things in to consideration, including the amount of time you can invest in to them.

Relevant: Your goals should be cohesive with all your other goals. For example, you can’t have a goal to play more video games and study more – these will work against each other. Your goals should align with who you are and your bigger picture dreams.

Timely: Goals need to be time bound – every goal needs to have a date in which they should be completed. In this situation that might be the end of the year, or it might be sooner if another goal is contingent upon it.

All goals have an element of difficulty to them, but some are definitely more challenging than others.

A relationship goal I have for next year is to make time for date night with my wife every week. This isn’t really that challenging, but I think it will be hard to prioritise it when things are busy and kids are noisy and all we want to do is stay in instead of going out.

Other goals, like business goals are much harder and will require day in, day out dedication to see them happen. Weight loss goals take daily discipline and hard work.

Before the new year comes around, set some SMART goals for yourself in each of the 4 categories (if you are in school, swap school in for career) and write them down somewhere you will see them regularly. Make the next year your best yet!

Putting in the hours

I believe in working smart – that if you get super focussed and in the zone you will maximise your productivity and achieve far more in that one hour than in three hours at 70% focus.

But I also believe in putting in the hours.

Elon Musk, creator of Tesla and Space X said, “Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing you know that… you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.”

Putting in the hours will give you a huge advantage. Everything in life takes time, so by doing extra hours you will get better, faster.

A really handy exercise to do is to map out your week in detail. In a spreadsheet list every activity you do and be as detailed as you can. Once you block out sleep and school and transit time and maybe your casual job, you will be left with a few dozen hours in the week.

You have many choices when it comes to what you do with those hours. Play video games, see friends, practice guitar.

Try to make it a rule to give at least 30% of them to your goal – whatever that is.

If your goal is to get in to University, give that 30% to studying. If your goal is to become an actor, give that 30% to creating youtube videos. If your goal is to become a singer, spend 30% of your free time making music.

Putting in the hours is what separates an expert from everyone else.

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